Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crying, Screaming Toward the Earth

Sarah suggested I write about this NPR article, "Cosmonaut Crashed Into Earth, 'Crying In Rage,'" which is awesomely and weirdly titled and is itself both awesome and weird. The article is not about the crash, exactly, but about the crash as reported in a new book, Starman. The comments tilt with concern about the veracity and balance of the account, which details with steely morbidity the lead-up to a mission that everyone knew was doomed. As Robert Krulwich writes,

In 1967, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn't back out because he didn't want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement.

Krulwich summarizes how the men both, in the end, tried to muscle the other out of harm's way, and how Vladimir Komarov made it aboard and rode the deathtrap and, as his parachutes failed and he hurtled toward the earth, ragesdagainst the bureaucracy responsible for his death. As a bonus, Krulwich includes an image of the letter the Nixon Administration prepared for release in the event that Armstrong and Aldrin were stranded on the Moon, left to wait for death in the gray dust and thin gravity.

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